Last year, the United Nations (UN) celebrated the 75th anniversary. To take stock of how the UN meets the needs of those it represents and of the direction it should take in the future, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched a yearlong series of consultations. Under the header “the future we want, the UN we need” over 1.5 million people across the globe contributed their thoughts on the UN and their expectations for the future.
“In this 75th anniversary year, I want to provide as many people as possible the chance to have a conversation with the United Nations. To share their hopes and fears. To learn from their experiences. To spark ideas for building the future we want and the United Nations we need,” Guterres said of the global citizens’ consultation. The conclusions of the worldwide debate were incorporated in a report and presented last month at the UN Office in Geneva by Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the commemoration of the UN’s 75th anniversary.
The report deals extensively with how to recover from the Covid-19 crisis, but also investigates how citizens everywhere feel about the UN system. The consultations show that while an overwhelming majority of people (97%) believe that international cooperation is important, 40% of people also feel that the UN is “remote from their lives”.
One key finding of the report is that people around the globe want a more democratic and participatory UN. The report lists a number of proposals for UN reform and even specifically points to the introduction of a World Citizens’ Initiative, a tool Democracy International has been lobbying for in the past years along with a global coalition of civil society organisations.
Under organisational reforms, the UN75 report suggests that “the UN can be further democratized through other reforms, such as establishing a UN parliamentary assembly as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly under article 22 of the Charter, or introducing a ‘citizen proposal initiative’ to the UN General Assembly or other permanent consultation tool.”
Both of these reforms would mean a more inclusive, democratic and participatory UN that is no longer solely the exclusive arena of high-level diplomats, but also would be open to the voices of the people it represents.
The UN75 report is surely only a starting point, but it is an important and hopeful sign that a new age of inclusive global governance is dawning.
At the 2020 UN General Assembly last September, Member States tasked UN Secretary-General Guterres with drafting “recommendations to advance our common agenda and to respond to current and future challenges”. Secretary-General Guterres himself has promised that in order to sketch out this roadmap for the future of the UN, he will collect inputs from Member States, as well as from civil society and the UN75 report. His recommendations will be presented in September 2021 under the header “Our Common Agenda”. It represents a unique momentum to give rise to a more inclusive, innovative, and democratic system of global governance.
A roadmap to a more democratic UN
Watch our webinar from 25 February on how to make the UN more democratic and inclusive.